By continuing to argue over detail, what these two organizations have signally failed to do, even after 20 years, is to make a totally compelling case for the fieldbus concept. Boyes’ concern is that this bad blood will wash over into the wireless world and similarly poison potential users’ impressions of the technology and, hence, drastically reduce its rate of adoption. In that he may be right, although other observers, such as ARC’s Harry Forbes, argue that the advantages of wireless are so compelling that they will override such concerns. More important, in our view, however, is that continual squabbling at this level will increase the rate of adoption of Ethernet right down to the device level, thereby removing the perceived risk previously associated with backing the wrong fieldbus horse, and opening up the market to new contenders. Against that background, and with contenders such as Cisco and Motorola joining the fray, arguments over what is and what is not “parrot marketing” are supremely irrelevant.
The FF travels the road to RIO
The Fieldbus Foundation reports accelerating progress towards the definition of a High Speed Ethernet Remote I/O (HSE-RIO) specification which, it says, will tighten the integration of process instrumentation into its architecture. Describing HSE-RIO as an important step forward, Foundation president and CEO Rich Timoney said “Device networks offer communication capabilities, but do not provide a complete automation infrastructure. Foundation fieldbus delivers process integrity, business intelligence and open, scalable integration in a managed environment, making it a true system infrastructure. Users will realize CAPEX and OPEX benefits from incorporating remote I/O in this technology.” . . . but Profibus PA makes inroads into US
Profibus is set to make a major breakthrough into the North American process market with the news that Siemens has been selected as main automation vendor (MAV) for BASF’s new Joncryl polymer plant at Wyandotte, Mich. Scheduled for completion in 2009, the greenfield project involves more than 5,000 I/O and will be the largest Profibus PA installation in the U.S. with more than 3,000 field devices. It will also be one of the world’s largest applications of redundant fieldbus. The plant will be controlled by a fully redundant Simatic PCS 7 DCS with redundant fieldbus connectivity using active field distributors (AFDs), redundant networks, redundant controllers and redundant HMI servers, clients and batch servers.
Emerson first to take orders for WirelessHART
With all the noise and excitement which has surrounded wireless in general and the WirelessHart—sorry WirelessHART—standard in particular over the past few years, it comes as something of a surprise to find that, up until the middle of March 2008, nobody had actually been selling any WirelessHART products. Despite successive North American and European product launches, most recently in Vienna in November of 2007 it was only on March 17 that Emerson put out a press release claiming it had become “the first process automation supplier to begin taking orders for WirelessHART-enabled products.”
Initially Emerson’s Smart Wireless range of WirelessHART-compliant products includes pressure, flow, level, temperature and vibration transmitters and gateways, along with its AMS Suite predictive maintenance software and 375 field communicator. In the pipeline are pH, discrete and valve position transmitters, the Smart Wireless THUM Communicator which will allow WirelessHART capability to be retrofitted to legacy devices and a DeltaV native wireless interface.
Emerson estimates that demand for wireless technology will exceed €1.5bn by 2012, leading Emerson Process Management president John Berra to comment that “In my 39 years in process automation, I have never seen a technology with such compelling, immediate benefits … Wireless simply means a better way to put more eyes and ears in the plant, to enable the plant to run better, safer and greener. This is a truly wonderful day.”
Whether he added “My, oh, my” and burst into song at this point the press release, sadly, does not reveal.
Some of the less usual suspects
While Emerson’s WirelessHART announcement again highlighted its collaboration with Cisco in extending its wireless capability upward and across the enterprise, the extent to which wireless is opening up the process automation market space to new and powerful contenders was further emphasized by the introduction by Motorola of new wireless IEEE 802.11n-compliant wireless local area network (WLAN) solutions aimed at providing practical replacements for wired enterprise networks. These will in turn be supported by new LAN Planner software to aid migration of existing WLANs.
According to ARC’s Harry Forbes, while the technology offers significant benefits over wired networking in greenfield office environments, it makes even more sense on the plant floor, where installation costs are higher. Most process plants, he points out, still have little or no WLAN coverage and will become attractive targets when hazardous- area versions of 802.11n products become available, offering increased range, interference immunity and reliable wireless mesh backhauls.
Forbes points out that Motorola is already a significant supplier of WLAN equipment to leading process manufacturers and, following last year’s acquisition of Symbol Technology, also supplies the most popular voice radios and hand-held computers currently available to industry, a position which can only be enhanced by its new WLAN offerings.
Furthermonre, Massachusetts start-up AirSprite Technologies is offering instrument vendors and users an alternative and fast-track route into WirelessHART. Participants in its newly announced AccelerATE HART OEM Program will be able to integrate the specific features and functions of their devices with AirSprite’s WirelessHART intelligent infrastructure products. The AirSprite products are designed to connect directly to installed instruments and, hence, to unlock data in intelligent field devices and integrate it with plant and enterprise applications. “We created AccelerATE to assist field device manufacturers in getting to market quickly with a standard-compliant wireless offering,” explained AirSprite CEO Paul Sereiko. “Building on proven networking technology from Dust Networks, we’ve developed a core platform for quickly enabling OEM products to comply with WirelessHART.”